Consumer Action INSIDER - October 2012


41st Anniversary Announcement

Table of Contents

What people are saying

Consumer Action’s services are essential to our families. The quality of the translations is excellent and we do not have to re-invent the wheel, so we can focus on service delivery. — Carmin Bonilla, SELF-Help Enterprises (SHE), Tulare County, CA

Did you know?

Seven rent-to-own companies and a software design firm have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they spied on consumers using computers that consumers rented from them, capturing screenshots of confidential and personal information, logging their computer keystrokes and in some cases taking webcam pictures of people in their homes, all without notice to, or consent from, the consumers. Learn more.

Consumer Action joins White House forum on foreclosure

Advocates fighting foreclosure, homeowners, clergy and housing counselors from 26 states called on the Obama Administration to take targeted action to combat the nation’s ongoing housing crisis.

With the presidential election imminent, Consumer Action joined 170 other concerned advocates at a half-day conference with top officials from the White House and the Treasury and Justice departments and officials from Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The message the advocates delivered was clear: The Administration must step up its foreclosure prevention efforts.

“This Administration had a bold plan to bail out the auto industry. What’s your blueprint to save our homes in our communities of color?” asked a California clergyman.

“We applaud the work you are doing so far, but we have a collective responsibility to stop the liquidation of our communities,” said a San Fernando Valley housing counselor.

Advocates asked the Administration to develop a national strategy to achieve principal reductions for families to remain in their homes. They also demanded that the Administration hold Wall Street accountable for the housing crisis.

White House officials told the group that they were taking incremental steps toward rebuilding the mortgage servicing system, but that the job was made more difficult by structural barriers in the mortgage industry and a challenging political environment.

After a full-group session, attendees at the conference broke into smaller groups to develop solutions that would address:

  • Sustainable home loans: Ways to help homeowners receive reductions in the principal amount owed on their mortgage.
  • Housing counseling and outreach: Because homeowners don’t know where to go for help or whom to trust, ideas were developed for a national campaign with a clear message and ways to provide additional funding for housing counseling help.
  • Access to credit: How to help consumers who are locked out of the mortgage market because of high downpayment requirements.
  • Help for distressed communities: The discussion centered on new and innovative neighborhood stabilization models.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan attended each breakout group to hear members' concerns and recommendations. At the end of the day, Donovan acknowledged that he had heard the “urgency and frustration on these issues and I say, don’t stop! I know there’s a lot more work to be done, and we need to know what’s working and what’s not to be sure that the solutions we fight for help homeowners.”

Hotline Chronicles: Cardholder’s credit limit reduced without notice

Bradley* from San Jose, California, called Consumer Action’s hotline to complain that he opened his most recent credit card billing statement only to find that the issuer had slashed his credit limit. Bradley wanted to know, “What are my rights?”

Many consumers assume they gained new rights to prevent credit limit reductions under the 2009 CARD Act. Unfortunately, issuers are not required to notify you in advance of lowering your credit limit unless the decrease is lower than your current balance and would result in an over-the-limit penalty fee. So, many cardholders only learn of reduced credit limits when they check their billing statement or try to make a purchase that would exceed the new limit.

The answer to Bradley’s questions about his rights depends on whether he gave his permission to allow transactions that exceed his credit limit. Under the CARD Act, cardholders cannot be charged over-limit fees unless they give express permission (“opt in”) to the card issuer to approve transactions that exceed their credit limit. If permission is not given, transactions that exceed the credit limit most likely would be turned down. Without cardholder “opt in,” issuers can’t charge over-limit fees, so for these consumers, advance notice of a credit limit reduction would be unlikely.

An advance notice is not always required even for cardholders who do opt in. Here are two credit limit reduction scenarios involving cardholders who “opted in” to have their issuers allow transactions that exceed their credit limits and have, therefore, agreed to be charged an over-limit fee if that happens:

John has a $5,500 credit limit on his credit card, and has a current balance of $500. His card issuer lowers John’s credit limit to $2,500. Because the change leaves John with available credit ($2,000) after taking into account his existing balance of $500, the credit limit reduction won’t result in an over-limit fee, so no notification is required.

Sally has a $2,000 limit on her credit card and carries an $1,800 balance. Her card issuer feels that Sally is a risky customer and cuts her limit to $1,500. If Sally’s issuer intends to charge an over-limit fee because Sally’s balance now exceeds her new credit limit of $1,500, it must provide Sally with a written or oral notice of the change at least 45 days prior to assessing the fee.

‘Risky business’

Since the 2008 financial meltdown, credit card issuers and other lenders have been unwilling to take risks. Many have acted to reduce credit lines across their credit card portfolios in an attempt to reduce the possibility that cardholders will make transactions that they can’t repay.

The CARD Act had a large impact on how lenders price for risk because it stopped the general practice of increasing the interest rate on existing balances. Under current rules, with limited exceptions for variable rates and late payments, credit card interest rates can be increased only for future purchases. This means that, outside of these exceptions, existing balances must remain at the same interest rate until they are paid off.

Nothing prevents card issuers from lowering credit limits. A credit limit reduction could happen to any cardholder, at any time.

To avoid a credit limit decrease, pay on time and, if possible, don’t use more than 50% of your credit limit. Also, check your credit report annually and dispute any inaccuracies that might affect your credit negatively. Check your credit card account online between statements to make sure your balance is not getting out of hand and that the card company has not lowered your credit limit.

Credit impact

A credit limit reduction, if severe, can have the nasty side effect of bringing your credit score down with it. To reduce the chances of harm to your credit history, Consumer Action recommends:

  • Call the issuer and plead for leniency, especially if you are a cardholder with a good record of making payments on time and managing your credit limit well.
  • Before you get angry and close the account, consider how it might affect your overall credit history and credit score. Closing a long-established account can have a negative effect.
  • Check your credit report for free at ([url=][/url]) to make sure there are no errors or other issues that might signal to your card issuer and other current lenders that you’re a credit risk. Dispute any problems with the credit bureaus.
  • Shop around for a new card. If you are a good customer, there may be other banks and credit unions that would love to have your business. Some cards might even allow you to transfer your balance. (If you transfer a balance, consider leaving the old card open to minimize any damage to your credit score.)
  • Don’t opt in to allow your issuer to process over-the-limit transactions.

If you’d like to contact our hotline team about a consumer complaint, click here to submit online [en español], or call 415-777-9635 and leave a voicemail message.

*Not this consumer’s real name

California gas prices inspire cartoons

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend and beyond, California drivers broke out their credit cards to pay near-record-high gasoline prices. Oil companies blame Hurricane Isaac and a recent fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery, but Consumer Action blames the industry, which is pocketing huge profits while saying it can’t afford to meet its clean air commitments.

While it’s no laughing matter, Consumer Action commissioned Steve Greenberg, the well-known cartoonist, to create three editorial cartoons to help illustrate the challenges faced by consumers. Greenberg granted full permission for websites, bloggers and editorial outlets to publish the three cartoons without charge. Click here to download a zip file with the cartoons in .jpg file format.

“Big oil is pocketing billions in profits and taking billions more in consumer-funded government subsidies as they claim clean air standards in California are too expensive,” said Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action’s executive director. “We’re calling their bluff—California families are the ones who are hurting right now, not fat-cat oil executives.”

We also pulled together a compilation of 20 years worth of oil industry false claims. Click here to download our “Cry Wolf” PDF fact sheet.

Coalitions tackle a number of issues that harm vulnerable populations

In recent weeks, Consumer Action has joined fellow consumer advocates to ensure that government and corporate policies do not harm vulnerable populations, including low-income people and children.

Full-file utility credit reporting has the potential to harm millions of consumers.

Consumer Action, in coalition with the National Consumer Law Center and other groups, fired off a letter of opposition to HR 6363, a bill that would add utility payment history to credit files. While at first glance the practice seems to help consumers build credit, advocates predict that it could result in damaged credit for consumers who don’t pay their bills, which could be worse than having no credit history. And, the practice may have an especially negative impact in several cold-weather states that prohibit utilities from disconnecting service during the winter months for households that are suffering financial hardship. Despite a prohibition on shut-offs, utilities would be required to report that the payments are in arrears. Credit scores and reports are not used solely for lending decisions. Many employers use credit reports in hiring and other employment decisions and insurers use credit reports to vet applicants. In such cases, it is far worse to have a negative credit report than one with no information. The groups sent a letter to the bill’s author, Congressman Jim Ranacci (R-OH), seeking changes to the legislation to better protect consumers. Click here to download the letter.

The most vulnerable populations would be harmed by automatic budget cuts in 2013.

When Congress came to an impasse on budget cuts last year, rather than finding compromise, it created automatic budget cuts if no compromise was reached. As Congress engages in these politically charged discussions, Consumer Action joined advocates from other organizations to point out that many of the automatic cuts would devastate crucial programs for consumers. Among other programs, the cuts would deny WIC nutrition to 750,000 mothers and young children, force 185,000 households to lose rental assistance vouchers and stop 734,000 households from receiving home heating and cooling aid.

Rather than resort to automatic cuts, Consumer Action joined Strengthening America's Values and Economy (SAVE) and other advocates to urge Congress to approach the budgeting process with avoiding potential harms to low-income and vulnerable populations in mind. The groups also urged Congress to promote job creation and seek responsible savings by targeting wasteful spending. Click here to download the letter.

Does fast food vendor McDonald’s violate Child Online Privacy Protection Rule?

Many believe that fast food such as McDonald’s isn't healthy for kids—but privacy advocates now warn that the company’s marketing practices are just as bad for children. Consumer Action joined the Center for Digital Democracy and other organizations in a letter of complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charging that McDonald’s and other corporations violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Other named corporations include General Mills, Doctor’s Associates, Viacom and Turner Broadcasting System. The complaint centers on “refer-a-friend” marketing, in which companies urge children who are playing games on their websites to provide the email addresses of their friends. Advocates say the companies then use those email addresses to send unsolicited marketing messages to the friends. Along with email addresses, these companies may also collect other information of a sensitive nature from children. For example, McDonald’s HappyMeal website encourages children to submit photos to create funny videos and to send them to their friends in emails embedded with marketing messages. Click here to download the letter to the FTC.

A call for sanity in gun laws

Consumer Action has joined more than 90 organizations to call for stronger gun laws to prevent more shootings like the senseless and tragic massacres in Colorado and Wisconsin this summer.

The Campaign to Stop Gun Violence coalition includes organizations that focus on issues such as consumer rights, civil and human rights, religious freedom, domestic violence prevention and suicide prevention. The effort is notable because, as with Consumer Action, gun violence is not the main focus of coalition members, but the tragic consequences of weak gun laws impact all our constituencies.

“How many more mass murders will it take to convince our leaders to support stronger gun control laws that will save lives?” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action. “We call on our elected officials on both sides of the aisle to ignore the rhetoric and work together to protect citizens from gun violence.”

Campaign members have signed a Statement of Principles endorsing a number of public policy principles to reduce gun death and injury, such as:

  • Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and those with serious mental illness by closing gaps in the background check system, including requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales.
  • Supporting policies that enhance law enforcement’s ability to combat the flow of illegal guns into our communities and enforce existing gun laws.
  • Supporting new technologies to help law enforcement more effectively trace crime guns and supporting development of safety features to childproof guns.
  • Urging firearms retailers to implement protocols aimed at preventing “straw purchases” and the sale of firearms to prohibited purchasers.

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective public policy. For more information, visit the Campaign to Stop Gun Violence website.

Cell Savvy summer in California

As many families prepared to hit the roads and head to airports and train stations for summer vacations, Consumer Action launched its Empower U Cell Phone Savvy training module, packed with information to help consumers make smart wireless choices, whether close to home or while roaming the world. Consumer Action conducted three Cell Phone Savvy train-the-trainer roundtables, in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Marina, California, for staff of community-based agencies. Consumer Action's Empower U Project is funded by a grant from the California Consumer Protection Foundation.

For the Los Angeles training, held in late June, Consumer Action partnered with West Angeles Community Development Corporation (CDC). Community-based organizations from the Los Angeles area and from San Bernardino and Riverside counties attended the session, held in the community room of the West Angeles senior housing complex. West Angeles is a long-time partner of Consumer Action and has distributed the organization's educational publications to its clients for many years.

Consumer Action's Linda Williams began the training session with a pre-training true-false quiz that introduced participants to many of the concepts that would be covered during the day. The activity, in which groups of participants competed for points, set the tone for a highly interactive session. Williams says the activity allowed her to gauge which sections needed more emphasis. It also prompted participants to carefully read portions of the training manual as Williams pointed out correct answers.

In July, Sacramento's Cell Phone Savvy training was co-hosted by World Relief, a local non-profit serving area refugees and a long-time fan of Consumer Action's multilingual publications.

The Marina training, held in August, was co-hosted by Monterey County Community Action Partnership, who invited its non-profit partners and helped secure the training site at the Marina Public Library.

The Sacramento and Marina sessions followed the successful model the team used in Los Angeles. After the pre-training quiz led by Williams, Consumer Action's Nelson Santiago trained participants on the first half of the educational module. Santiago first described the components that make up the Cell Phone Savvy module: the brochure for clients, the lesson plan, which includes the quiz and several case studies, the training manual for community-based organization staff, and the PowerPoint slides for workshop leaders. Santiago included information and tips on choosing the right wireless device, choosing a carrier and service plan, and the differences between prepaid and postpaid wireless service.

Williams presented the second half of the Cell Phone Savvy module. She discussed a variety of tools that consumers can use to help manage their wireless costs. These included cost-comparison site Bill Shrink as well as Consumer Action's own WirelessED data usage estimator.

Participants reviewed and discussed several case studies, leading to Williams’ presentation of ways to save money while traveling internationally, steps to take to protect cell phone data in the event of a lost or stolen phone, and cell phone privacy.

“I was especially pleased to see how engaged participants became with Stella’s case,” notes Williams, referring to the case study she wrote about a fictional single mother, Stella, who was able to get away from her family for a few days for a trip to Jamaica.

Stella may have gotten her “groove back” in Jamaica, but she was less than cell savvy on the trip. She called family back home, sent text messages to her book club, updated her Facebook page, and more—all without taking any precautions before the trip to control costs. Participants had no shortage of advice for Stella, exchanging lots of ideas and laughter as they discussed her options for dealing with bill shock and anticipating the new expense of keeping in touch with her Jamaican long-distance love interest.

Santiago reminded participants that the goal of the training was to provide them with a model and tools they can use when they present their own workshops. The Consumer Action ace trainers encouraged participants to contact them for assistance with their own consumer education efforts.

California: New Internet privacy protections signed into law

As California wrapped up its legislative session on August 31, there was late activity with two consumer bills, while many others were sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature or veto.

On Sept. 29 the Governor approved a measure to protecting student Internet accounts from university officials (SB 1349-Lee) and another to ban employers from asking for workers to share their email and social media passwords (AB 1844-Campos).

On Twitter, Gov. Brown said, "California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts.

On Sept. 26, Governor Brown signed AB 2296 (Block), which will require for-profit colleges to disclose key information that has been kept from the public. For-profit schools often refuse to disclose their true graduation rates, future salaries, loan default rates or job placement rates, because these facts could reveal uncomfortable details about the quality of education students receive.

The new law will give prospective students access to statistics to help them make more informed choices about institutions of higher learning. A bill that would have required blade-stopping technology in new saws beginning in 2015 died in the Senate at the end of the session, after having passed out of Assembly 64-4.

Spinning saw blades cause about 67,000 injuries per year. AB 2218 (Williams) languished on the Senate floor for several weeks without debate or a vote, while its opponents (tool vendors Home Depot, Sears and Lowe's, and tool manufacturers) lobbied Republicans and business-oriented Democrats against the bill, which they argued would stifle competition.

Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) said he is considering reintroducing a version of the bill next year. Meanwhile, we’ll hope that the Consumer Product Safety Commission rulemaking process will result in this urgently needed safety measure. (Download a PDF of CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum's statement on table saw rulemaking.)

Consumer Action helped defeat a last-minute “gut-and-amend” bill, SB 1212 (Calderon), that would have put insurance policyholders at greater risk of losing coverage or paying too much for their insurance. Existing law in California prohibits insurers from using electronic-only delivery of renewal documents for products like auto or home insurance because electronic-only notices are four times as likely not be delivered owing to bulk email filters, out-of-date email addresses and other factors. SB 1212 would have allowed companies to send electronic-only policy renewals and premium bills by default. Consumer Action and other pro-consumer interests argued that this would lead to lapsed policies and late payments.

Gut-and-amend bills often are attempts to sneak unpopular legislation through in the final moments of the session, on the hope that no one will be watching closely. Fortunately, enough eyes were on this bill to force its withdrawal. Along with Consumer Action, the opposition included United Policyholders, the Consumer Federation of California and the California Department of Insurance.

Hundreds more bills await a decision by the Governor, including car buyers' rights bills SB 956, AB 1534 and AB 1447. To learn more about these bills, or to write to your lawmakers about them, visit our California Action Center.

Consumer Action awards second phase of MoneyWi$e mini-grants

Consumer Action awarded the second phase of 2012 MoneyWi$e mini-grants to nine community organizations that attended MoneyWi$e trainings and/or used MoneyWi$e materials in their communities. Each group receives a $7,500 mini-grant to support their innovative financial empowerment projects in diverse communities. (Grant application is by invitation only.) This phase was open to groups in the northern half of the Capital One footprint. (MoneyWi$e is a national financial literacy partnership between Capital One and Consumer Action.)

The agencies selected have demonstrated successful use of the Consumer Action/Capital One MoneyWi$e curricula as part of innovative outreach programs to diverse groups, including veterans, immigrants, shelter residents, youth and formerly incarcerated (re-entry) clients. In a variety of settings, from face-to-face counseling sessions to group workshops, the organizations use MoneyWi$e materials to educate consumers about personal finance basics, including banking, credit and budgeting, to help them save and plan for short- and long-term financial goals.

The 2012 Phase II MoneyWi$e mini-grant recipients, and their plans for the grant funds, are:

HomeFront, Inc., Buffalo, NY. The grant recipient’s target audience is prospective or current low- and moderate-income (LMI) homeowners. HomeFront will help clients create and use a spending plan/budget and establish and maintain accounts at banks or credit unions for at least six months.

HOPES CAP, Inc., Hoboken, NJ. The group will teach basic financial management principles to a target audience of low-income individuals of all ages through a combination of workshops and one-on-one counseling. Clients will be taught how to establish and improve credit and will be assisted in establishing an actionable plan for first-time homeownership, vehicle ownership, small business ownership or higher education.

Latino Economic Development Corporation, Washington, DC. The organization will assist homeownership clients in a target audience of primarily low- and moderate-income, Spanish-speaking immigrants to improve their credit scores, improve money management practices and develop savings plans.

Money Management International (MMI), West Long Branch, NJ. The credit counseling agency will conduct money management workshops for homeless veterans who are receiving housing and supportive services through Common Ground, assist the applicants to complete a secured credit card application, and provide them with the initial deposit for the secured card.

Garden State Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc. (DBA “Novadebt”), Freehold, NJ. Novadebt will provide Manna House transitional shelter residents with assistance in developing a personal financial action plan. The group will provide one-on-one counseling and group workshops using MoneyWi$e materials, assist clients in requesting credit reports, and help them dispute any inaccurate information in the reports. Novadebt also will work with its partner banks and credit unions to give unbanked residents an opportunity to establish bank accounts.

Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC/DC), Washington, DC. The OIC/DC target audience includes a diverse community of low-income, homeless, unemployed and underemployed people, including the disabled, youth, immigrants, the elderly, single parents, ex-offenders, public housing residents, former drug addicts, business owners and new and potential homeowners. OIC/DC will: assist its clients in opening a savings or checking account at a reputable financial institution and will provide a one-time account start-up stipend; help clients create and implement a realistic budget plan; and help clients obtain and interpret their credit reports.

Urban League Affordable Housing and Community Development Corporation, Jersey City, NJ. Targeting an audience of low- and moderate-income individuals and families, the organization will work to increase their knowledge of credit, banking basics, and household and/or micro-business budgeting. The group also will assist community members in creating their own household budget and savings plan.

Veterans Enterprise Training & Services Group (VETS Group), Washington, DC. Targeting unemployed or underemployed veterans, the VETS Group will conduct full-day training workshops and one-on-one counseling to help clients establish or review and maintain good credit, establish and maintain a bank account and budget, and learn how to protect their identity. VETS Group will provide some participants with funds to open a checking or savings account at the bank of their choice. Clients also will be taught how to monitor their accounts online. Trainings will be held on how to place a fraud alert, credit freeze or password on a credit file. In addition, a select number of participants will learn the basics of starting a small business. These clients will be taught how to select a legal structure for the business and develop a business plan.

City of Rockville Community Service Division, Rockville, MD. This grant will be used to assist low-income residents, applicants for the Rockville Emergency Assistance Program, residents of low-income housing managed by Rockville Housing Enterprises, parents of children enrolled in the Linkages to Learning Program at Maryvale Elementary School, local shelter residents, residents referred by the Montgomery County Health and Human Services Emergency Assistance Program and city/county residents referred by the Emergency Assistance Coalition. The agency will offer money management workshops and provide participants with one-on-one sessions with a certified financial planner.

“Our mini-grant program is unique and highly effective. We require grantees to provide us with bi-monthly reports during the education phase,” noted Consumer Action Executive Director Ken McEldowney. “In addition, grantees track graduates for an additional three months to determine how they have improved handling finances.”

MoneyWi$e trains Richmond non-profits in financial literacy

Capital One and Consumer Action co-hosted a MoneyWi$e training for community-based organization (CBO) staff in Richmond, Virginia, in July. The MoneyWi$e program is jointly sponsored by Consumer Action and Capital One. Consumer Action trained 54 CBO partners at the meeting, which drew groups from in and around the state capital.

The team conducted a full-day meeting that focused on timeless topics such as establishing credit, rebuilding credit, money management and banking. The MoneyWi$e curricula includes brochures, leader's guides, lesson plans and PowerPoint slides.

Consumer Action Associate Director of Outreach and Training Audrey Perrott, Capital One Senior Financial Literacy Associate Petra Khaliqi and Capital One Volunteer Manager Amy Chapman provided welcoming remarks and told participants about Consumer Action and Capital One’s ongoing commitment to partnering with community groups to educate consumers.

Feedmore Program Manager Warren Hammonds also provided a warm welcome to the food bank partners that attended the training and are working with Capital One as part of a financial literacy initiative.

Community Outreach and Training Manager Linda Williams kicked off the training with Why Adults Learn, helping participants to understand the motivations behind adult learning. Afterward, attendees agreed that the training helped develop their understanding of why, and how, adults learn.

Williams also led the session on Managing Your Money Wisely, segueing from that into a group activity that focuses trainees on a case study of fictional client Sally Walker. The Sally Walker case study incorporates elements of the money management, rebuilding credit and identity theft MoneyWi$e training modules. (Click here to view all MoneyWi$e modules.) Williams organized participants into groups that worked together to develop recommendations for Sally. Following the breakouts, the groups shared their case management plans with the rest of the trainees.

After lunch, Community Outreach and Training Manager Nelson Santiago led Good Credit and Rebuilding Good Credit sessions. Santiago covered the importance of good credit, how to obtain your credit report, how your credit rating determines the interest rate you pay and strategies for rebuilding good credit. Santiago also discussed secured cards and told the group about several key resources, including Consumer Action's Secured Card Survey.

Williams provided an overview of the Banking Basics module and gave participants a note-taking guide that she had developed to help trainees retain key concepts.

Williams and Santiago together led the teach-back/fishbowl activity, during which participants, working in small groups, selected one of six modules to review and present to the full group. The module choices were Banking Basics, Micro Business, Rebuilding Good Credit, Elder Fraud, Saving to Build Wealth, and ID Theft and Account Fraud. Each team was given a condensed version of the module it chose to study and then tasked with developing an engaging way to present the material. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate how quickly trainers can grasp the MoneyWi$e materials and be prepared to deliver the content effectively to their target audiences.

The feedback from the Richmond evaluations was excellent, with 94.3% of attendees saying they agreed or strongly agreed that the training covered everything they had hoped it would.

About Consumer Action

Consumer Action is a non-profit organization that has championed the rights of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. Throughout its history, the organization has dedicated its resources to promoting financial literacy and advocating for consumer rights in both the media and before lawmakers to promote economic justice for all. With the resources and infrastructure to reach millions of consumers, Consumer Action is one of the most recognized, effective and trusted consumer organizations in the nation.

Financial Education. To empower consumers to assert their rights in the marketplace, Consumer Action provides a range of education resources. The organization's extensive library of free publications offers in-depth financial information, while its hotline provides non-legal advice and referrals. Consumer Action also publishes unbiased surveys of financial and consumer services to expose excessive prices and anti-consumer practices, help consumers make informed buying choices and elicit change from big business.

Community Outreach. With a special focus on serving low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers, Consumer Action maintains strong ties to a national network of nearly 7,500 community-based organizations. Outreach services include training and free mailings of financial education materials in many languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Consumer Action's network is the largest and most diverse of its kind.

Advocacy. Consumer Action is deeply committed to ensuring that underrepresented consumers are represented in the national media and in front of lawmakers. The organization promotes pro-consumer policy, regulation and legislation by taking positions on dozens of bills per legislative session and testifying at least three times per year. Additionally, its diverse staff provides the media with expert commentary on key consumer issues supported by solid data and victim testimony.

Click here to learn more about our staff.



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